Saddleworth teenager to show national musical prowess

A SADDLEWORTH teenager will show off his skill with the French Horn to audiences across the country after retaining his place on the National Youth Orchestra.

Toby Johnson-Jones, who hails from Greenfield, is one of just 156 people from across Great Britain to feature in the group

And the 17-year-old is reaping the rewards of a mistake!

Now his new orchestra is set to entertain audiences in London, Nottingham, Warwick and Liverpool as it goes on an Odyssey between January 4 and 8.

Toby Johnson-Jones, who hails from Greenfield, is one of just 156 people from across Great Britain to feature in the group

With Andre Bloch conducting, the self-titled ‘world’s greatest orchestra of teenagers’ performs work by Benjamin Britten, Anna Clyne and Richard Strauss, including some immortalised in Stanley Kubrick’s cult movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Toby also revealed the circumstances of how he played the French Horn in the first place.

He said: “While in primary school I wanted to try playing percussion. I had lessons and began playing the drums in a brass group.

“I enjoyed playing in the group and the opportunities it gave me. By mistake I picked up a letter offering the brass players in the group a chance to try the French Horn. I liked the sound of that!

“I returned the letter and, although it wasn’t intended for me but for those who already played a brass instrument, the music service allowed me to have a go.

Toby Johnson-Jones

“Soon afterwards, I stopped playing percussion as I much preferred the French Horn!”

Toby, who attends Blue Coat in Oldham, warmed up for his place with the National Youth Orchestra by playing some festive favourites with his school’s brass band.

He also performed with the English Schools Orchestra, where he was given the John Mcintosh award 2022.

And after his final course, the ESO wished him all the nest for his future career and said: “It has been a pleasure having you play for us.”

Toby is much more than a French Horn player in one orchestra, he is also in others, local brass bands and swing groups.

And he admits being part pf the NYO has taken his playing to a new level.

He added: “I am actively involved in music making through a range of groups including being part of the Halle Youth Orchestra, NYO Inspire Programme, English Schools Orchestra, Opera North, as well as my school and local music centre groups.

“I have attended the Junior Royal Northern College of Music every Saturday for the last six years. I enjoy performing with similarly minded young people who have a love for orchestral music.

“I’ve been a member of the NYO since 2022 and this has really developed my understanding and orchestral playing experience.

“It is so great to share different knowledge and ideas with fellow musicians on how to ensure that the music is played with focus, understanding and professionalism.”

Toby makes up a National Youth Orchestra they say celebrates the incredible diversity of the UK.

Half of it comes from state education and a further 16 per cent are members of the Department for Education’s Music and Dance scheme, attending specialist music schools.

A total of 29 per cent musicians are black, Asian or ethnically diverse.

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